On Improvising: Happy (Long) Weekend

by Julie

Sometimes you just have to empty out the fridge. Or you’re face-to-page with a recipe and you think, There’s room here for more.

Hence, to improvise. To make do. To create…spontaneously. Without rehearsal. Without prior knowledge, prior testing, prior anything this moment.

I sat down with Wednesday’s recipe (Holiday Soup for the Soul from ohsheglows) and thought, not so much that there wasn’t room for more, but that here, in this simple soup recipe, there was the potential for something new entirely. Okay, maybe not entirely, but enough newness to make the recipe my own. And when you think about it, in’t that what improvision often provides?–an opportunity (a chance!) to claim something for yourself.

Chickpea-Polenta Soup with Spinach

1 large onion, diced

1 large carrot, peeled and chopped

1 red bell pepper, diced

2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 medium zucchini, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

6-8 cups water, depending on how thick you want your soup

3 medium potatoes, cut into bite-sized chunks

1 yam, cut into bite-sized chunks

One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes

1/3 cup polenta

2 cups cooked chickpeas 

1/4 – 1/2 cup nutritional yeast

3 bay leaves

1 teaspoon celery seeds

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

10 cups baby spinach leaves, well rinsed and well packed (to add at the very end)

To prepare:

Heat oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute for 5-7 minutes. Add carrot, bell pepper, potatoes, yam, and zucchini and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Add water, bay leaves, tomatoes and chickpeas. Bring pot to a boil, add polenta, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 25 minutes, stirring often, until polenta thickens. You’ll want to avoid leaving your pot for too long, or else the polenta will sink and stick to the bottom. Stir in nutritional yeast and celery seeds. Adjust salt and pepper and serve hot.


So, this weekend is all about improvision and inspiration. My goal? I’m going to attempt to come up with a recipe for a vegan, gluten-free savory scone, similar to the one I had the BabyCakes Bakery in NYC last fall. Here are a few recipes I’m looking to as starting points:

Gluten-Free Blueberry Scones from Gluten-Free Goddess

Vegan Tomato-Rosemary Scones from The Daily Green

Monster Savory Scones from Holy Cow!

And of course, the BabyCakes recipe book (although alas, no savory scone recipes to be had)


Wish me luck and have a great weekend!